Naukratis: Greeks in Egypt

Alexandra Villing, Marianne Bergeron, Giorgos Bourogiannis, Alan Johnston, François Leclère, Aurélia Masson and Ross Thomas

With Daniel von Recklinghausen, Jeffrey Spencer, Valerie Smallwood, Virginia Webb and Susan Woodford

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Supported by

The Leverhulme Trust
  • The Shelby White - Leon Levy Program for Archaeological Publications
  • Christian Levett and the Mougins Museum of Classical Art
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Locally produced Archaic and Classical Greek pottery

 

Alexandra Villing

The local production of Greek style pottery at Naukratis has long been controversially debated. It is only recently that archaeometric analyses and new excavations have begun to clarify the picture and confirm local pottery production in both Greek and Egyptian styles from the early days of the site’s history.

Painted and undecorated vessels in a variety of Greek shapes and styles are attested no later than the early 6th century BC. The quality of the potting and of the Nile silt fabric of the small group of extant examples suggests the work of Greek-trained potters. The decoration, however, can combine elements of different East Greek regional styles or features ways of finishing such as burnishing, otherwise characteristic of Egyptian or Levantine pottery, suggesting that hybrid elements soon developed in Naukratite workshops. It is likely that the same workshops also produced lamps of Greek type.

While the popularity of locally made painted wares appears to fall in the 6th century BC, plainer Greek-style table wares and utilitarian shapes are also found later on, with a workshop producing local imitations of Greek black glazed pottery in operation at least from the later 4th century BC. Of note is also the presence of mortaria of both Cypriot and Greek shapes made from Egyptian clay.

Fragment of a locally made plate decorated in an East Greek style, c. 590BC–560 BC. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 86.533. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston